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Ford government to table legislation that would impose contract on education workers, prevent planned strike


Ontario’s education minister, Stephen Lecce, says the provincial government has “no other choice but to introduce legislation tomorrow, which will ensure that students remain in-class to catch up on their learning.”

This comes after an emergency mediated session was called Sunday afternoon between the provincial government and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), the union that represents the province’s education workers.

The session included all affected parties including CUPE, government negotiators, the mediator, and school board representatives, all of whom gather at downtown Toronto's Sheraton Hotel to discuss the imminent job action and how it can be averted.

CUPE announced Sunday morning that education workers across the province would go on strike starting Friday, Nov. 4 if a deal with the provincial government is not reached.

Following the meeting, Lecce said the provincial government presented CUPE with a new offer, but CUPE did not accept it and still intends to strike starting Friday.

“We are doing everything we can to keep students in class, and that’s why today we asked CUPE to meet us back at the table and presented a more generous offer,” Lecce said.

“Because CUPE refuses to withdraw their intent to strike, in order to avoid shutting down classes we will have no other choice but to introduce legislation tomorrow, which will ensure that students remain in-class to catch up on their learning.”

Laura Walton, a Belleville-based educational assistant who serves as the president of CUPE’s Ontario School Boards Council of Unions says the Ford government’s threat of legislation is a “slap in the face to all workers.”

“Today, the Ford government's lead negotiators summoned me to a meeting. We went to the meeting optimistic that this government would recognize and respect our right to negotiate. Instead they gave us an ultimatum. They threatened to introduce legislation to dictate the terms of our next contract as early as tomorrow,” Walton said in a news conference call Sunday night.

Walton says that CUPE is prepared to return to the bargaining table tomorrow to continue talks with the province.

“We are here, just as we've been for five months, and we're ready to get a negotiated agreement that responds to the needs of students and frontline workers,” Walton said.

Walton says that no one, least of all education workers themselves, wants a strike, but adds that education workers need and deserve a significant wage increase.


If the province’s planned legislation isn’t passed and a CUPE strike begins Friday, numerous school boards across Ontario confirmed Sunday that they’d be forced to shut their schools’ doors.

The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) is telling parents, guardians and caregivers to be prepared for all possibilities in the event of a strike.

Ontario’s biggest school board sent a letter to parents Sunday evening saying it anticipates sharing additional information tomorrow about next steps and contingency plans in the event of a strike.

“We are continuing to assess the impact a full withdrawal of services will have on our schools. With approximately 14,600 TDSB staff members represented by CUPE, maintaining a normal routine will be very difficult and as such, parents/guardians/caregivers and students should be prepared for all possibilities," the letter said.

The Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) announced Sunday afternoon that it would close the doors of its schools starting Friday, if the strike goes ahead.

In a note sent to parents and guardians, the TCDSB said the closure, which will be done "to ensure the health, welfare, and safety of our students and staff," would also result in the cancellation of permits for special events as well as night school and Saturday classes. All excursions will also be called off "for the duration of the strike," the board noted.

The TCDSB, which is advising parents/guardians to check its website and Twitter page for updates, said it is also working with its child-care providers to come up with a "contingency plan" and would communicate more information shortly.

In the meantime, the board is encouraging parents with school-aged children to make alternate arrangements for their families.

"We understand that this news is difficult and may be the source of stress among families and their children, particularly after the circumstances during the pandemic. However, please be aware that the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) does not control the decisions regarding the strike or its remedy as negotiations rest centrally at the provincial level," the TCDSB said.

The Halton District School Board (HDSB) revealed it would provide a mix of in-person and online learning to its Kindergarten to Grade 8 students. Friday would start with in-person learning then following the weekend on Monday students would take classes at home, with the schedule alternating between both each subsequent day.


HDSB’s secondary students would continue to attend class at school each day, which includes Grade 7 to 12 schools in Aldershot, Burlington Central, and Acton District.

Despite not knowing what exactly the job action would entail, the Kawartha Pine Ridge District and the Peterborough Victoria Northumberland and Clarington (PVNC) Catholic District school boards have also both already announced they plan to close their buildings if a full CUPE strike happens.


Education workers in Ontario have been without a contract since Aug. 31. Despite several rounds of talks, a new collective agreement has yet to be negotiated.

In early October, CUPE announced its members had voted 96.5 per cent in favour of walking off the job if a contract agreement could not be reached with the provincial government.

The union then asked the Ontario Ministry of Labour to grant what is known as a no-board report, which means that a board of conciliation will not be appointed. That go-ahead, which allowed the workers to legally walk off the job in 17 days (Nov. 3), was given on Oct. 17. Five days notice must be given before the union can go on strike.

Last week, mediated negotiations began between the two sides, but broke down after just two days.

The Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA), which represents English public district school boards and public school authorities across Ontario, told CTV News that their "top priority is to negotiate a fair collective agreement, that is fully-funded, and in the best interest of our students."

"We will be attending the meeting with the other parties today,” OPSBA President Cathy Abraham said in a statement.

At this time, the association is in the process of compiling a complete list of boards that plan on closing their schools if a strike happens on Friday. In some cases, boards with facilities that have support staff entirely represented by the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation can remain open.

Among other things, CUPE wants a yearly wage increase of $3.25/hour (11.7 per cent), early childhood educators in every kindergarten class, five additional paid days before the start of the school year, 30 minutes of paid daily prep time, an increase in overtime pay, and a $100 million investment in new job creation.

The Ford government’s latest offer, proposed at Sunday’s emergency session, is a four-year deal that includes a 2.5 per cent annual raise for workers who make under $43,000, and a 1.5 per cent yearly wage increase for those who make more.

This is up from their initial offer of annual increases of a two per cent raise for workers who make less than $40,000 and a 1.25 per cent raise otherwise.

Walton says that CUPE’s goal is to "get a negotiated agreement that responds to the needs of students and frontline workers. No one wants to strike, least of all the lowest-paid education workers who can barely pay our bills.”

“Still, we need a significant wage increase and we deserve it. Students and parents deserve guarantees of service levels and improved staffing in schools. Doug Ford is premier of Canada’s richest province and he clearly has the power and resources to accept our reasonable, affordable, and absolutely necessary proposals. It would be popular and the right thing for him to do that today,” she said in an Oct. 30 news release.

Lecce maintains that education workers in the province have access to one of the most generous pension programs and says their latest offer provides for funding increases for benefits and includes additional accountability measures that better protect stability in classrooms for students.

“We are at the table with a fair offer that includes a pay raise and maintains the most generous pension and benefit package, but most importantly — it keeps kids in class,” Lecce said.

Lecce previously described his government’s offers as “reasonable”, and has urged the union to come forward with a counterproposal that is more “affordable and fair” than what they have submitted to date.

In a statement provided to CP24 on Friday, he accused CUPE of all but confirming "that they will strike if they do not get a nearly 50 per cent increase in compensation."

"While this union puts their own interests ahead of kids, we will ensure Ontario students remain in class," Lecce said.

The union first legally served notice to bargain on June 3, the day after the provincial election.

“We have been urging the Ford government to reach a deal with us for 150 days, but so far they keep saying ‘no’ even though they could easily afford to say ‘yes’ given their $2.1 billion surplus,” Walton said, adding students are being sent home from school because there aren’t enough staff available, while many education workers are relying on foodbanks.

All five of Ontario’s key education unions are currently in the midst of bargaining with the province after their contracts expired on Aug. 31.


With files from CP24's Chris Fox and Jordan Fleguel, and The Canadian Press. Top Stories

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